The Syracuse Orange women’s basketball team continued its skid, falling 84-71 to No. 3 Louisville on Thursday night for its fourth straight loss.
All 13-point games aren’t created equal, however, and in this one, the final score does not tell the full story.
Even in the loss, the Orange showed a whole lot of heart against the best team they will face all season. Syracuse hung close early, but Louisville expanded its lead to 40-29 with 1:37 left in the first half.
Given the Orange’s thin roster and track record of letting things get away quickly, it seemed like Vonn Read’s team was in trouble. Instead, Syracuse responded with the final six points of the half to cut the deficit to five and sway the momentum.
The Cardinals kept Syracuse just out of reach for most of the third quarter, but after Chrislyn Carr hit a step-back three and Teisha Hyman made a layup, the Orange incredibly led 56-55 with 1:44 remaining in the period. Louisville responded with the next four points to lead 59-56 after 30 minutes, but this was a game.
Carr knotted things at 62 early in the fourth with another step-back, this time from inside the arc. The Orange had two chances to regain the lead, but couldn’t convert. Louisville’s Kianna Smith splashed a wide-open three with 5:46 left that gave the Cardinals an advantage they would not let go of the rest of the way.
Syracuse went cold as Louisville hit some timely shots. Hailey Van Lith nailed a jumper to make it 70-66 with 4:22 left, and Olivia Cochran converted a three-point play to stretch the lead to seven with three minutes left.
A Hyman turnover with 2:12 left turned into another jumper from Van Lith that made it 75-66 with 1:59 remaining. The Orange, limited to six-player rotation, simply ran out of steam.
Christianna Carr led the Orange with 19 points but also committed five turnovers. Chrislyn Carr played all 40 minutes and finished with 17. Hyman had 16 and Alaysia Styles added 10. Naje Murray was the only starter who failed to reach double-figures, finishing with five on 2-9 shooting.
Interestingly, the Orange stayed competitive while taking a season-low in three-point attempts (17). Syracuse hit eight from beyond the arc for a 47 percent clip, while doing more work than usual from inside the three-point line.
They hung with a bigger Louisville team on the glass but struggled taking care of the ball. The Orange finished with 20 giveaways, twice as many as the Cardinals. Louisville turned those donations into 24 points, a crucial number in a game that was so close for so long.
Former Orange standout Emily Engstler filled the stat sheet despite battling foul trouble. She finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, and five assists. Van Lith and Smith shared game-high honors with 20 points apiece.
Syracuse will hope to use this game as a sign that it can compete with the top of the ACC. It would’ve been good enough to beat plenty of other teams. A loss is still a loss, though, and Syracuse has some serious work to do if it wants to re-establish itself as an at-large contender.
The Orange plays at Virginia at 1 p.m. on Sunday.